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DINWIDDIE AND THE BURGESSES EXPEDIENTS TO GAIN RECRUITS.
Ways and means being provided, Governor Dinwiddie augmented the number of troops to be enlisted to three hundred, divided into six
Dinwiddie convened the House of Burgesses to devise measures for the public security. Here his high idea of prerogative and of gubernatorial dignity met with a grievous counter-companies. check from the dawning spirit of independence. High as were the powers vested in the colonial government of Virginia, of which, though but lieutenant-governor, he had the actual control; they were counterbalanced by the power inherent in the people, growing out of their situation and circumstances, and acting through their representatives.
The command of the whole, as
before, was offered to Washington, but he shrank from it, as a charge too great for his youth and inexperience. It was given, therefore, to Colonel Joshua Fry, an English gentleman of worth and education, and Washington was made second in command, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel.
The recruiting, at first, went on slowly. There was no turbulent factious opposition Those who offered to enlist, says Washington, to government in Virginia; no “fierce democ- were for the most part loose, idle persons withracy," the rank growth of crowded cities, and out house or home, some without shoes or a fermenting populace; but there was the inde-stockings, some shirtless, and many without pendence of men, living apart in patriarchal coat or waistcoat. style on their own rural domains; surrounded by their families, dependants, and slaves, among whom their will was law,-and there was the individuality in character and action of men prone to nurture peculiar notions and habits of thinking, in the thoughtful solitariness of country life.
When Dinwiddie propounded his scheme of operations on the Ohio, some of the burgesses had the hardihood to doubt the claims of the king to the disputed territory; a doubt which the governor reprobated as savoring strongly of a most disloyal French spirit; he fired, as he says, at the thought "that an English legislature should presume to doubt the right of his majesty to the interior parts of this continent, the back part of his dominions!"
Others demurred to any grant of means for military purposes which might be construed into an act of hostility. To meet this scruple it was suggested that the grant might be made for the purpose of encouraging and protecting all settlers on the waters of the Mississippi. And under this specious plea ten thousand ponnds were grudgingly voted; but even this moderate sum was not put at the absolute disposition of the governor. A committee was appointed with whom he was to confer as to its appropriation.
This precaution Dinwiddie considered an insulting invasion of the right he possessed as governor to control the purse as well as the sword; and he complained bitterly of the Assembly, as deeply tinctured with a republican way of thinking, and disposed to encroach on the prerogative of the crown, "which he feared would render them more and more difficult to be brought to order."
He was young in the recruiting service, or he would have known that such is generally the stuff of which armies are made. In this country especially it has always been difficult to enlist the active yeomanry by holding out merely the pay of a soldier. The means of subsistence are too easily obtained by the industrious, for them to give up home and personal independence for a mere daily support. Some may be tempted by a love of adventure; but in general, they require some prospect of ultimate advantage that may "better their condition."
Governor Dinwiddie became sensible of this, and resorted to an expedient rising out of the natural resources of the country, which has since been frequently adopted, and always with efficacy. He proclaimed a bounty of two hundred thousand acres of land on the Ohio River, to be divided among the officers and soldiers who should engage in this expedition; one thousand to be laid off contiguous to the fort at the Fork, for the use of the garrison. This was a tempting bait to the sons of farmers, who readily enlisted in the hope of having, at the end of a short campaign, a snug farm of their own in this land of promise.
It was a more difficult matter to get officers than soldiers. Very few of those appointed made their appearance; one of the captains had been promoted; two declined; Washington found himself left, almost alone, to manage a number of self-willed, undisciplined recruits. Happily he had with him, in the rank of lieutenant, that soldier of fortune, Jacob Van Braam, his old "master of fence," and travelling interpreter.
In his emergency he forthwith nominated
TOILSOME MARCH TO WILLS' CREEK-CATASTROPHE AT THE FORT. [1754.
him captain, and wrote to the governor to con- | distant, for baggage-waggons, and await their firm the appointment, representing him as the oldest lieutenant, and an experienced officer. On the 2d of April Washington set off from Alexandria for the new fort, at the Fork of the Ohio. He had but two companies with him, amounting to about one hundred and fifty men; the remainder of the regiment was to follow under Colonel Fry with the artillery, which was to be conveyed up the Potomac. While on the march he was joined by a detachment under Captain Adam Stephen, an officer destined to serve with him at distant periods of his military career.
At Winchester he found it impossible to obtain conveyances by gentle means, and was obliged reluctantly to avail himself of the militia law of Virginia, and impress horses and waggons for service; giving the owners orders on government for their appraised value. Even then, out of a great number impressed, he obtained but ten, after waiting a week; these, too, were grudgingly furnished by farmers with their worst horses, so that in steep and difficult passes they were incompetent to the draught, and the soldiers had continually to put their shoulders to the wheels.
arrival. All uncertainty as to the fate of the men, however, was brought to a close by their arrival, on the 25th, conducted by an ensign, and bringing with them their working implements. The French might well boast that they had again been too quick for the English. Captain Contrecœur, an alert officer, had embarked about a thousand men with field-pieces, in a fleet of sixty batteaux and three hundred canoes, dropped down the river from Venango, and suddenly made his appearance before the fort, on which the men were working, and which was not half completed. Landing, drawing up his men, and planting his artillery, he summoned the fort to surrender, allowing one hour for a written reply.
What was to be done! the whole garrison did not exceed fifty men. Captain Trent was absent at Wills' Creek; Frazier, his lieutenant, was at his own residence at Turtle Creek, ten miles distant. There was no officer to reply but a young ensign of the name of Ward. In his perplexity he turned for counsel to Tanacharisson, the half-king, who was present in the fort. The chief advised the ensign to plead insufficiency of rank and powers, and crave delay until the arrival of his superior officer. The ensign repaired to the French camp to offer this excuse in person, and was accompanied by the half-king. They were courteously received, but Contrecœur was inflexible. There must be instant surrender, or he would take forcible possession. All that the ensign could obtain was permission to depart with his men, taking with them their working tools. The capitulation ended. Contrecœur, with true French gayety, invited the ensign to sup with him ; treated him with the utmost politeness, and wished him a pleasant journey, as he set off the next morning with his men laden with their working tools.
Thus slenderly fitted out, Washington and his little force made their way toilfully across the mountains, having to prepare the roads as they went for the transportation of the cannon, which were to follow on with the other division under Colonel Fry. They cheered themselves with the thoughts that this hard work would cease when they should arrive at the company's trading-post and store-house at Wills' Creek, where Captain Trent was to have packhorses in readiness, with which they might make the rest of the way by light stages. Before arriving there they were startled by a rumor that Trent and all his men had been captured by the French. With regard to Trent, the news soon proved to be false, for they found him at Wills' Creek on the 20th of April. With regard to his men there was still an uncertainty. He had recently left them at the Fork of the Ohio, busily at work on the fort, under the command of his lieutenant, Frazier, late Indian trader, and gunsmith, but now a provincial officer. If the men had been captured, it must have been since the captain's departure. Washington was eager to press forward and ascertain the truth, but it was impossible. Trent, inefficient as One of these warriors Washington forwarded usual, had failed to provide packhorses. It on with the speech and wampum to Governor was necessary to send to Winchester, sixty miles | Dinwiddie.
Such was the ensign's story. He was accompanied by two Indian warriors, sent by the half-king to ascertain where the detachment was, what was its strength, and when it might be expected at the Ohio. They bore a speech from that sachem to Washington, and another, with a belt of wampum, for the Governor of Virginia. In these he plighted his steadfast faith to the English, and claimed assistance from his brothers of Virginia and Pennsylvania.
The other he prevailed on to re
TRENT'S REFRACTORY TROOPS-LEGISLATIVE CROSS-PURPOSES.
those provinces, acquainting them with the hostile acts of the French, and with his peril. ous situation; and endeavoring to rouse them to co-operation in the common cause. We will here note in advance that his letter was laid before the Legislature of Pennsylvania, and a bill was about to be passed asking appropriations for the service of the king; but it fell through, in consequence of a disagreement between the Assembly and the governor as to the
and so no assistance was furnished to Washington from that quarter. The youthful commander had here a foretaste, in these his incipient campaigns, of the perils and perplexities which awaited him from enemies in the field, and lax friends in legislative councils in the grander operations of his future years. Before setting off for Redstone Creek, he discharged Trent's refractory men from his detachment, ordering them to await Colonel Fry's commands; they, however, in the true spirit of volunteers from the backwoods, dispersed to their several homes.
turn to the half-king, bearing a speech from him, addressed to the "Sachems, warriors of the Six United Nations, Shannoahs and Delawares, our friends and brethren." In this he informed them that he was on the advance with a part of the army, to clear the road for a greater force coming with guns, ammunition, and provisions; and he invited the half-king and another sachem to meet him on the road as soon as possible to hold a council. In fact, his situation was arduous in the ex-mode in which the money should be raised; treme. Regarding the conduct of the French in the recent occurrence an overt act of war, he found himself thrown with a handful of raw recruits far on a hostile frontier, in the midst of a wilderness, with an enemy at hand greatly superior in number and discipline; provided with artillery, and all the munitions of war, and within reach of constant supplies and reinforcements. Beside the French that had come from Venango, he had received credible accounts of another party ascending the Ohio; and of six hundred Chippewas and Ottawas marching down Scioto Creek to join the hostile camp. Still, notwithstanding the accumulating danger, it would not do to fall back, nor show signs of apprehension. His Indian allies in such case might desert him. The soldiery, too, might grow restless and dissatisfied. He was already annoyed by Captain Trent's men, who, having enlisted as volunteers, considered themselves exempt from the rigor of martial law; and by their example of loose and refrac-ity. Lieutenant Frazier, though not altogether tory conduct, threatened to destroy the subordination of his own troops.
In this dilemma he called a council of war, in which it was determined to proceed to the Ohio Company store-house, at the mouth of Redstone Creek; fortify themselves there, and wait for reinforcements. Here they might keep up a vigilant watch upon the enemy, and get notice of any hostile movement in time for defence, or retreat; and should they be reinforced sufficiently to enable them to attack the fort, they could easily drop down the river with their artillery.
With these alternatives in view, Washington detached sixty men in advance to make a road; and at the same time wrote to Governor Dinwiddie for mortars and grenadoes, and cannon of heavy metal.
Aware that the Assembly of Pennsylvania was in session, and that the Maryland Assembly would also meet in the course of a few days, he wrote directly to the governors of
It may be as well to observe, in this place, that both Captain Trent and Lieutenant Frazier were severely censured for being absent from their post at the time of the French summons. "Trent's behavior," said Washington, in a letter to Governor Dinwiddie, "has been very tardy, and has convinced the world of what they before suspected-his great timid
blameless, is much more excusable, for he would not accept of the commission until he had a promise from his captain that he should not reside at the fort, nor visit it above once a week, or as he saw necessity." In fact, Washington subsequently recommended Frazier for the office of adjutant.
On the 29th of April Washington set out from Wills' Creek at the head of one hundred and sixty men. He soon overtook those sent in advance to work the road; they had made but little progress. It was a difficult task to break a road through the wilderness sufficient for the artillery coming on with Colonel Fry's division. All hands were now set to work, but with all their labor they could not accomplish more than four miles a day. They were toiling
RUMORS FROM THE OHIO-WASHINGTON'S MOTIVES OF ACTION.
through Savage Mountain and that dreary | him serve voluntarily, and he would with the forest region beyond it, since bearing the sinis- greatest pleasure in life devote his services to ter name of "The Shades of Death." On the the expedition-but to be slaving through 9th of May they were not further than twenty woods, rocks, and mountains, for the shadow miles from Wills' Creek, at a place called the of pay-" writes he, "I would rather toil like a Little Meadows. day laborer for a maintenance, if reduced to the necessity, than serve on such ignoble terms." Parity of pay was indispensable to the dignity of the service.
Every day came gloomy accounts from the Ohio; brought chiefly by traders who, with packhorses bearing their effects, were retreating to the more settled parts of the country. Some exaggerated the number of the French, as if strongly reinforced. All represented them as diligently at work constructing a fort. By their account Washington perceived the French had chosen the very place which he had noted in his journal as best fitted for the purpose.
One of the traders gave information concerning La Force the French emissary who had beset Washington when on his mission to the frontier, and acted, as he thought, the part of a spy. He had been at Gist's new settlement beyond Laurel Hill, and was prowling about the country with four soldiers at his heels on a pretended hunt after deserters. Washington suspected him to be on a reconnoitering expedition.
It was reported, moreover, that the French were lavishing presents on the Indians about the lower part of the river, to draw them to their standard. Among all these flying reports and alarms Washington was gratified to learn that the half-king was on his way to meet him at the head of fifty warriors.
After infinite toil through swamps and forests, and over rugged mountains, the detachment arrived at the Youghiogeny River, where they were detained some days constructing a bridge to cross it.
This gave Washington leisure to correspond with Governor Dinwiddie concerning matters which had deeply annoyed him. By an illjudged economy of the Virginia government at this critical juncture, its provincial officers received less pay than that allowed in the regular army. It is true the regular officers were obliged to furnish their own table, but their superior pay enabled them to do it luxuriously; whereas the provincials were obliged to do hard duty on salt provisions and water. The provincial officers resented this inferiority of pay as an indignity, and declared that nothing prevented them from throwing up their commissions but unwillingness to recede before approaching dan ger.
Other instances of false economy were pointed out by him, forming so many drags upon the expedition, that he quite despaired of success. "Be the consequence what it will, however," adds he, "I am determined not to leave the regiment, but to be among the last men that leave the Ohio; even if I serve as a private volunteer, which I greatly prefer to the establishment we are upon. I have a constitution hardy enough to encounter and undergo the most severe trials, and I flatter myself resolution to face what any man dares, as shall be proved when it comes to the test.”
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And in a letter to his friend Colonel Fairfax "For my own part," writes he, "it is a matter almost indifferent whether I serve for full pay or as a generous volunteer; indeed, did my circumstances correspond with my inclinations, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter; for the motives that have led me here are pure and noble. I had no view of acquisition but that of honor, by serving faithfully my king and country."
Such were the noble impulses of Washington at the age of twenty-two, and such continued. to actuate him throughout life. We have put the latter part of the quotation in italics, as applicable to the motives which in after life carried him into the Revolution.
While the bridge over the Youghiogeny was in the course of construction, the Indians assured Washington he would never be able to open a waggon-road across the mountains to Redstone Creek; he embarked therefore in a canoe with a lieutenant, three soldiers, and an Indian guide, to try whether it was possible to descend the river. They had not descended above ten miles before the Indian refused to go further. Washington soon ascertained the reason. "Indians," said he, "expect presents-nothing can be done without them. The French take this method. If you want one or more to conduct a party to discover the country to hunt, or for any particular purpose, they must be bought; their friendship is not so warm as to prompt them Washington shared deeply this feeling. "Let to these services gratis." The Indian guide in
LURKING FOES SKIRMISH WITH JUMONVILLE.
the present instance, was propitiated by the promise of one of Washington's ruffled shirts, and a watch-coat.
The river was bordered by mountains and obstructed by rocks and rapids. Indians might thread such a labyrinth in their light canoes, but it would never admit the transportation of troops and military stores. Washington kept on for thirty miles, until he came to a place where the river fell nearly forty feet in the space of fifty yards. There he ceased to explore, and returned to camp, resolving to continue forward by land.
On the 23d Indian scouts brought word that the French were not above eight hundred strong, and that about half their number had been detached at night on a secret expedition. Close upon this report came a message from the half-king, addressed "to the first of his majesty's officers whom it may concern."
"It is reported," said he, "that the French army is coming to meet Major Washington. Be on your guard against them, my brethren, for they intend to strike the first English they shall see. They have been on their march two days. I know not their number. The halfking and the rest of the chiefs will be with you in five days to hold a council."
In the evening Washington was told that the French were crossing the ford of the Youghiogeny about eighteen miles distant. He now hastened to take a position in a place called the Great Meadows, where he caused the bushes to be cleared away, made an intrenchment, and prepared what he termed "a charming field for an encounter."
A party of scouts were mounted on waggon horses, and sent out to reconnoitre. They returned without having seen an enemy. A sensitiveness prevailed in the camp. They were surrounded by forests, threatened by unseen foes, and hourly in danger of surprise. There was an alarm about two o'clock in the night. The sentries fired upon what they took to be prowling foes. The troops sprang to arms, and remained on the alert until daybreak. Not an enemy was to be seen. The roll was called. Six men were missing, who had deserted.
On the 25th Mr. Gist arrived from his place, about fifteen miles distant. La Force had been there at noon on the previous day, with a detachment of fifty men, and Gist had since come upon their track within five miles of the camp. Washington considered La Force a
bold, enterprising man, subtle and dangerous; one to be particularly guarded against. He detached seventy-five men in pursuit of him and his prowling band.
About nine o'clock at night came an Indian messenger from the half-king, who was encamped with several of his people about six miles off. The chief had seen tracks of two Frenchmen, and was convinced their whole body must be in ambush near by.
Washington considered this the force which had been hovering about him for several days, and determined to forestall their hostile designs. Leaving a guard with the baggage and ammunition, he set out before ten o'clock, with forty men, to join his Indian ally. They grouped their way in single file, by footpaths through the woods, in a heavy rain and murky darkness, tripping occasionally and stumbling over each other, sometimes losing the track for fifteen or twenty minutes, so that it was near sunrise when they reached the camp of the half-king.
That chieftain received the youthful commander with great demonstrations of friendship, and engaged to go hand in hand with him against the lurking enemy. He set out accordingly, accompanied by a few of his warriors and his associate sachem Scarooyadi or Monacatoocha, and conducted Washington to the tracks which he had discovered. Upon these he put two of his Indians. They followed them up like hounds, and brought back word that they had traced them to a low bottom surrounded by rocks and trees, where the French were encamped, having built a few cabins for shelter from the rain.
A plan was now concerted to come upon them by surprise; Washington with his men on the right; the half-king with his warriors on the left; all as silently as possible. Washington was the first upon the ground. As he advanced from among the rocks and trees at the head of his men, the French caught sight of him and ran to their arms. A sharp firing instantly took place, and was kept up on both sides for about fifteen minutes. Washington and his party were most exposed, and received all the enemy's fire. The balls whistled around him; one man was killed close by him, and three others wounded. The French at length, having lost several of their number, gave way and ran. They were soon overtaken; twenty-one were captured, and but one escaped, a Canadian, who carried the